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Ronald "Ron" Smith '66 December 2, 2019 3:22 PM updated: December 2, 2019 3:26 PM

Published in Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2019

Ronald Arthur Smith
1944 - 2019

Ronald Arthur Smith

Las Cruces - Ronald Arthur Smith, born December 2, 1944, in the Bronx, NY, died on October 24, 2019 in Corpus Christi, TX, as the result of heart failure. The eldest son of Benjamin N. Smith, Jr., and Ethel E. Zimmermann Smith, he was a graduate of Saugerties High School and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Texas A&M University. In his youth, he served as acolyte at St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in West Camp, NY. In high school he was active in several student organizations such as Debate, Choir, Operetta and Esopus Council. He was business manager of the Sawyer (annual). He was a member of the National Honor Society and was awarded two National Science Foundation summer scholarships, a NYS Regents Scholarship and the National Forensic League Degree of Distinction. He also served as a delegate to the Model United Nations and was a representative to the student legislature held at the NY State Legislature in Albany. He wrote the lyrics for the Junior and Senior songs. In college Ron was the Managing Editor of the Texas A&M Review and was President of the A&M fencing team. He was an officer in the A&M Corps of Cadets, was designated a Distinguished Student during his Junior year, and was awarded several graduate student research and teaching assistantships. He also served on the staff of the Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA). He represented the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets at the funeral of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.

Ron's distinguished professional career spanned more than 45 years in academia, government service and industry. He began as a college English teacher at A&M, Lamar University, and El Paso Community College. He was then selected for the U.S. Government's Management Intern Program, which led to Department of Defense (DoD) assignments in security administration and field investigations, technical writing and editing, and computer-based document production and network management. In industry, he served as a program analyst supporting the Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Education and Development Program and as manager of a team of program and management analysts who advised and supported DOE in its interactions with state and tribal governments in various public accountability programs. Ron also served until 2009 as a technical advisor to and strategic planner for the Directorate for Applied Technology, Test and Simulation at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command's Big Crow Program Office at Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB), and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NM Tech) and its Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), its Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis (ICASA), its Institute for Engineering Research and Applications (IERA), its Playas Training and Research Center (PTRC) and its MicroElectronics Testing and Technology Obsolescence Program (METTOP). His work with these organizations during the last several years required an intense involvement in their homeland security/homeland defense activities. Most recently he served as a legal researcher for a Las Cruces law firm.

As a credentialed Industrial Security Staff Specialist at the HQ of the Office of Industrial Security, Ron was tasked with doing a cover-to-cover revision of the Industrial Security Manual for Safeguarding Classified Information (ISM), now known as the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM). In late 1974 he transferred to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NM, where he served until 1978 as an Investigator/Inspector in the Intelligence Division of the WSMR Security Office. He then joined the Office of the Test Director, Electro-Optical Guided Weapons Countermeasures/ Counter-Countermeasures Joint Test and Evaluation Directorate (OTD) [now known as the Center for Countermeasure (CCM)]. Ron served as the OTD's first Technical Publications Writer/Editor. In that capacity he supervised the production of all technical documentation for the OTD. He also edited, rewrote or wrote, more than 200 comprehensive reports of sophisticated, OTD CM field tests and analyses of U.S. and foreign precision guided weapons. His efforts were recognized when he was honored with a US Army Special Act Award in 1988.

From 1974 until 1989, Ron was a volunteer with the Sunshine District, Yucca Council, Boy Scouts of America in Las Cruces, NM. He served as a Cub Master, Unit Commissioner and Sunshine District Commissioner. His Scouting awards and honors include the District Award of Merit, Commissioner's Arrowhead, and Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor. He was a graduate of the Commissioners' College and the Wood Badge program. In 1982 Ron (and fellow Scouter Webb Turner) created Project Gila SOAR (Save Our American Resources), a 4-year series of conservation and public works projects performed under late winter/early spring conditions in the Gila National Forest by Boy Scouts in support of the Forest Service and Park Service. Ron Chaired and led this program for all four years. Project Gila Soar involved more than 1,000 Boy Scouts, 52 of whom earned the Eagle Scout rank as the result of their planning and directing of specific conservation projects during Project Gila Soar's activities. It also produced more than $125,000 in benefits to the Forest Service and Park Service. As described in the Congressional Record and Scouting magazine, Project Gila SOAR was the largest conservation project in NM since the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps. President Reagan wrote Ron a letter of commendation for his efforts with Project Gila Soar. Ron made no bones about telling people that Project Gila SOAR was the best thing he had ever done.

Ron was predeceased by his younger brother, Robert; his parents; his paternal grandparents, Benjamin Nathan Smith, Sr., and Annie Laurie McCarty Smith; his maternal grandparents, Arno Gustav Zimmermann and Berta Emma Müller Zimmermann; paternal aunt, Laura Juanita Smith Griffin and husband, Ryle T, Griffin; paternal aunt, Ruby Marie Smith Scott and her husband, Raymond Scott; and both of their daughters, Sandra Scott Etheridge and Pamela Scott; maternal uncle, Arthur Zimmermann; wife, Lillian Skowronski Zimmermann; and their son, Louis Arthur Zimmermann.

Ron is survived by his son, Paul, and his wife, Cindy Hutchins Smith; grandson, Noah Smith; granddaughter, Abigail Smith; brother, Mark Young; brother Robert's wife Roxanne Angell Smith; and their children, Michael Smith (Ellen), Steven Smith (Amy), Lori Smith Carrington (Josh), and David Smith (Danielle); Michael's and Ellen's children, Ashley and Tyler; Steven's and Amy's children, Emily, Isaiah, Hannah, Bosena, Micah and Brody; and Lori's and Josh's children, J.J., Benjamin and McKenzee; and several maternal first and second cousins and their families. These include Richard Zimmermann (Mary); their daughters, Christine Zimmermann Machado (Dominic), Lora Zimmermann; Kathleen Zimmermann Ramos (Michael); their son, Kurt Zimmermann and his daughter, Lilly; Lora's son James, Jr. (Lauren); and Kathleen's and Michael's children, Matthew, Vanessa and Joshua.

While Ron was predeceased by his cousin Louis Zimmermann, he remained close with Louis' children and grandchildren: sons, Eric Zimmermann (Kendra) and Adam (Antonella); and daughters Cheryl Thompson (Jay) and Dyan Zimmermann. Other cousins include Karen Zimmermann Avena (Paul), Diane Schaller Zureck (Roger), Donna Schaller Neuberth (Kevin). He was also close to a "cousin" through marriage and his family: Dennis Denton and wife, Joyce.

He was neither rich, nor famous, but he had a rewarding, fulfilling life that he appreciated until the day he died. His memorial marker bears the following inscriptions: (1) He could speak dog, cat, and other important languages. (2) He lived by the following: Either lead, follow, or get the Hell out of my way; (3) There are no great men. There are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet; and (4) He left his mark on this life: to some a period, to others an exclamation point, to himself a question mark.

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